Thursday, September 01, 2005

Idyllic Bliss Revisited...

Its been years since I visited my native villages...Arakulam in Idukki and Kattanam in Alappuzha. In the ignorance of my childhood days I sometimes abhored the summer holidays that had to be spent there instead of the urban fun and frolic I missed out on in Trivandrum. Looking back I am so glad my parents overruled our initial wild protestations and packed us off when school finished...though...once we got into the pastoral grove....we were so hesitant to come i cant even remember a single vacation spent in trivandrum but every holiday spent in these two little but contradicting paradises on earth still remain so vivid, so fresh in memory...even after the passage of 10-20 years.

Arakulam...yet another village in Central Kerala, abounding with rubber trees, roads that got tarred only in the last decade, surrounded by seven hills like Rome, streams that flow through rubber estates, the Periyar in all its grandeur flowing a stone's throw away and of taking a bath in its freezing cold waters, greenery that would make your heart skip a beat, an unearthly silence broken only by the crickets and the lone owl, the fireflies that dance among the rubber trees in the pitch-black darkness of the night, rain that catches you by surprise...starts with a hissing sound somewhere behind you...and as you belatedly realize wht is abt to befall...the desperate retreat to the house as it teases you in mock pursuit and finally beats down so hard on the earth leaving u drenched...and finally the smell of the earth after a rain! And the people...the rubber tappers, skillfully plying their trade before the world awakens and a second round, to come collecting the milk thats oozed out after their early morning scrape. Then the cliched flashy achayanmar on their jeeps gulping in toddy, fresh off the palm at noon...and imfl, fresh off the bar, by evening...and some of the most beautiful women in the state but then beauty never came with brains in this part of the world, a people who can never get fed up with feasting on chicken, duck, rabbit and pork, of chettathees who compulsarily carry a rosary in their hand...i wonder now why there are so many family quarrels in that part of the world though people pray with such fervor. A visiting friend of my dad summed up Idukki in a sentence..."muttinu muttinu kallu shaappum, muttinu muttinu kurishu pallikalum"!

Kattanam, a hamlet in direct contrast to sea-level or lesser, abounding with paddy fields stretching miles and miles looking like a green ocean, part of the rice-bowl of Kerala, Kuttanad, a sleepy little village with an unassuming, almost self-effacing race of people...people who are real sons of the soil as they toil at their hand-in-hand with the laborers they employ...i see my ammachi again...making kanji for the twenty odd farm-hands hired for the harvest season...and its earthy taste when had with the plaavela for a spoon, i remember trying my hand at seperating the grain from the chaff, the cows(and their chanakam in which my mom wud wrap each of my fallen teeth and throw it onto the top of the house for i believe some bird or fairy to come take!), the hens whom we wud displace everyday to see if they had laid eggs, the pond which irrigated the field...near which i wudnt go near coz someone said a python lived there(a mean rumor spread to keep kids away from the water!)...of Sundays, which wuz the big day when everyone decked up in fine clothes for church and the whole village of about 50+ people getting together after church for kochuvarthamanams and visheshams. Kattanam reminded me so much of Pip's village straight out of Great Expectations...and so did many of the people I met there...moreover I wuz born here! The lone similarity between these two places wuz that everyone around wuz related to each other as first, second, third or fourth cousins if not siblings!

Whatever land I would have inherited one day in these two villages have been sold...dont think my parents expected their city-bred kanni-santhanam to write in praise of the simple life in these places...i know for day i will buy back my lands...if i am lucky maybe even spent a few months at a stretch in these places, become friends once again with the relatives i cared not to know or keep in touch with while growing up. Well so much for I am...stuck in one of the most crowded cities in the world...without even a generous sprinkling of greenery for miles and miles...unable to rein in my fanciful thoughts...well, this time the grass is literally and definitely more green on the other side...think i will keep revisiting this post often with the Naalikerathinte Naatil song post playing in the background.


Unknown said...

Great post! Anybody would want to visit these places if they read your post!
I also love these parts of Kerala. In fact I love most of my Keralam. Kuttanaad is my sister's favourite destination. She's got a few paathiri friends there.
The song Kera Nirakalaadum from the movie Jaloltsavam aptly describes those parts.

Sushil said...

Amazing post. I felt like I was there in Kerala in the places you mentioned. I felt the same during my school days visiting Puthupally near Kottayam. I would be reluctant to go but would always be sad to return to Chennai. Even though my home currently is now in Chennai ... my heart knows my home really is in Kerala.

Anonymous said...

Kannollappol kanninte vela ariyathilla, alle aliya?

The first place you mentioned sounds better than my naadu. An apt place for a savage gettogether, especially when you got all those kallushops around and ofcourse the Churches, I would love to visit them every sunday morning;)

Hasta Manana!


silverine said...

What vivid imagery you create with words. I could picture the place, the people.... So much like my little village, with achayans who can outdrink an Irishman, and achayathi's who cook so well ( in my part of Kerala, the ladies are fantastic cooks). I am lucky that our 'Tharavaadu' still stands proud amidst acres of Rubber Trees and I get to visit the place and my relations every year. Beautiful post.

Unknown said...
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Matter of Choice said...

Hi Jiby

wonderful writeup of home again. if there is one place i luv in kerala more than any other it is that region which extends from perumbavoor, kothamangalam, muvattupuzha, vazhakkulam, piravom, thodupuzha (havent gone much further up). each visit, i fall in luv again and again with the landscape (and the beauties!) of that region. may be its the fertile soil, the honest,hard-working but all the same innocent people. i luv those places. oh yeah and that description of kallu shops n kurisu palli's is so apt. the dishes that u get in those places (and the kallu) are god's own reward to such nice people!

beautiful post...and beautiful song..but i like even more the song "mamalakalkkappurathu marathaka pachayuduthu". for a mallu-in-exile-in-chennai, that song represents our exact feeling as we cross the palakkadan churam


Praveen said...

Really well described, i can picture these places thanks to your wonderful writing style.

Jiby said...

neil, thats a beatiful song abt kerala i heard after a long long time...heard the movie sucked though!

sushil, like u said its only when ur an expat u really get to feel how beautiful kerala ur oommen chandy's naatukaran.

shan,gimme a couple of years...maybe i can give u guys a taste of idukki...and u better keep ur promise of taking us to ur naadu at pathanamthitta.

anjali, ur lucky in that respect...i feel a little odd living in my tharavadu as a guest and not being able to do all the things i used to.

anish,that stretch from ernakulam to idukki via kottayam is just beatiful in all all respects! i totally forgot abt the maamalakalkkappuram song...for a train passenger travelling south over palakkad its the quintessential song expressing his/her feelings of kerala!

praveen, this post wuz for all of us expats...just to make u all sick with keralitis which i have been suffering chronically with since my plans to visit india in dec got confirmed!haha.

Sushil said...

You are very correct in that one appreciates things only if you are away from it for a while. I am a Kottayam "Achayan" at heart always. And yes the current Kerala CM is from Puthupally as well. Puthupally cannot be called small and sleepy anymore as most Malayalees would have heard of the place now since the CM is from there.